Communities in Schools of Wake County (www.ciswake.org) has partnered with the Wake County Public Schools System (WCPSS) for more than two decades to serve students. Our vision is to help schools remove the barriers that put students at risk of wasting their potential. Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Our mission reflects our theory of change that programs don’t change students, relationships do. We are part of the CIS National network of 181 local affiliates serving more than 1.3 million students in 28 states from families battling economic disadvantage and cycle of poverty.
Our ultimate goal for each student (in grades K-12) is to create a path toward post-secondary education or entry into a professional career. Over the past four years CIS Wake has increased the number of students served by 600 percent, and tripled revenue. Today, CIS Wake impacts more than 2,700 students with school-based programming in 19 schools and community-based programming delivered in five community learning centers. We have lowered the cost per student, but invested heavily in administrative capacity to manage growth.
Today, approximately 640 students are served at eight public schools (two high schools, two middle schools and four elementary schools) through embedded Graduation Coaches who provide advocacy, intervention, after-school academic support, and coordination of mentoring/tutoring by volunteers.
We serve 400 students in five learning centers located in public housing communities. Part-time certified teachers and volunteers support staff for up to four hours each day after school. In addition we’re delivering STEM-based afterschool programming within our learning centers for students who are bused to over 30 different schools, leaving the learning center as a safe haven for homework completion when returning home.
CIS Wake’s foundational approach of academic case management helps students achieve in and out of the classroom. Academic case management involves goal-setting with students; constant communication with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders; and monitoring student outcomes in three key areas: Attendance, Behavior, and Course Success in the core subjects of Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies. For attendance, the goal is that students are in school for 90% or more days of instruction; for behavior, our goal is that no student is long-term suspended; and for course success, our goal is that students receive grades of C or better in core subjects. CIS Wake also provides periodic services and access to resources that address community and school-wide needs. Examples include the distribution of school supplies, facilitating job shadow opportunities, and guest speakers that motivate students toward academic success.
But this is not enough.
A SMART Strategy…
Despite the many facets and layers of our traditional K-12 strategy, we recognized several years ago that in order to secure the long-term success of our students we had to augment and intensify our approach.
The SMART Solution…
We launched the SMART Academy to help students maximize academic resources through technology. Our mission (in grades K through 12) is to develop the 21st Century thinking skills of students (these students are located in both community sites and schools sites) in math and language arts. The SMART Academy programs are offered on weekends (SMART Weekend School), during after-school and the evening (SMART AfterSchool and Evening) and during the summer (SMART Summer). By the end of our Fiscal Year 2016 (June 30, 2016) we will have served more than 1,700 students in the SMART Academy.
The SMART Approach…
During one three-hour block offer affordable project-based learning (science projects), interactive instruction, small group instruction during weekends (for up to 20 weeks per academic year), real-world problem solving and homework assistance during the week featuring certified teachers. In addition, through a partnership with on-line service providers, we are working on making academic coaches available on-line and on-demand as needed.
In addition to our multi-year grants, in order to deliver our services, we depend on partnerships with business, civic, and faith-based groups, and volunteers We are issuing a call to action that invites our neighbors across the broader Wake County community to “Give Back to the Future” and join us by investing today in the leaders of tomorrow as partners, volunteers, mentors and givers.